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Old 08-09-2007, 03:00 PM
Jason Dunn
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 29,160
Default The Sweet Sound of Audioengine A5 Speakers

<img src="" /> <br /><br /><b>Product Category:</b> Speakers<br /><b>Manufacturer:</b> <a href="">Audioengine</a><br /><b>Where to Buy:</b> <a href="">Audioengine</a><br /><b>Price:</b> $349 USD<br /><b>System Requirements:</b> Will accept audio via any 3.5mm input source, will charge compatible devices via USB port (and almost any device is compatible).<br /><b>Specifications:</b> 2.0 bookshelf-style, powered speaker system. 45W RMS/ 70W peak per channel (AES). 2 X 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo mini-jack inputs, USB Type A (power charging only). Each speaker is 10.0”(H) x 7.0” (W) x 7.75” (D). 6.4Kg/14lbs (left), 4Kg/9lbs (right) in weight. Amplifier type is Dual Class AB monolithic. Signal-to-noise >95dB (typical A-weighted). Frequency response: 50Hz-22kHz +/-1.5dB. 1" thick MDF cabinet, 5" Kevlar woofers with advanced voice coils, Torroidal power transformers.<br /><br /><b>Pros</b>
  • <li>Crisp, clear, powerful sound;<br /><li> Decent bass response despite a lack of subwoofer;<br /><li> Dual audio inputs and USB device charging.
<b>Cons</b><ul><li>The lack of a sub-woofer will be missed if you're a bass head;<li> Weight and size pushes the limit of what would be considered a "bookshelf" speaker.</ul><b>Summary</b><br />Audioengine might not be a company you've heard of, but they're one of the best-kept secrets in audio: the A5 is their first, and flagship, product and it sets the quality bar for the company. These speakers, while expensive compared to mainstream computer speakers, are truly exceptional in audio quality.<br /><br />Read on for the full review!<!><br /><PAGEBREAK><br /><span><b>Unboxing the Audioengine A5's</b></span><br />The out-of-box experience with the A5's was pretty standard - nice packaging, and when I opened the box I saw that each speaker was in a soft bag. Nice touch to protect the speakers! Here's what's inside the box:<br /><br />• AC power cable<br />• 1/8" audio cable, 2 meters (~6.5ft)<br />• (2) 1/8" audio cables, 20cm (~8")<br />• 1/8" to RCA "Y" adapter cable<br />• USB power extender cable, 1 meter (~3.28ft)<br />• Speaker wire (16AWG), 3.75 meters (~12.3ft)<br />• Detachable AC power cable<br />• Drawstring cable bag<br />• Drawstring speaker bags<br />• (2) High-density foam isolation pads<br />• Setup Guide<br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 1: The speaker in a soft bag.</i><br /><br /><span><b>Exploring the Audioengine A5's</b></span> <br />Let's explore the features of the A5's though a series of pictures, shall we?<br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 2: An A5 speaker from the front view. These speakers look great, with an attractive, modern design. I was hoping they'd send me the black ones, but this is the white model which matches up nicely with a white iPod or Zune. In the lower-left corner is the power indicator, and in the lower right is the volume knob. It would be great if the volume knob served as an on/off switch as well, but it doesn't.</i><br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 3: The top of the right-channel speaker. This is one of the reasons the A5's are so great - they added an audio-in jack, which any MP3 player can connect to, and a USB charging port which almost any device should be able to use. Heck, I recharged my smartphone using that port!</i><br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 4: The back of the right-channel speaker. On the left you can see dual RCA connectors for attaching a sub-woofer, and below that there's another 3.5mm audio jack for input. At the bottom of that photo, only half shown, is an additional power outlet. This is really designed for connecting an <a href="">AirPort Express</a>.</i><br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 5: Standard fare here. Power connection (removable power cable, a nice touch), on-off switch, fuse, and AC selector for 110-120V and 220-240V.</i><br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 6: The woofer port on each speaker. More on this later, but man do these ever move air!</i><br /><PAGEBREAK><br /><span><b>Exploring the Audioengine A5's (...Continued)</b></span> <br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 7: The attachment point for the speaker wire. Once they're screwed in, everything is nice and secure - much better than a 3.5mm plug that can pop out.</i><br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 8: The bottom of each speaker is covered in a soft felt-like material that ensures moving the speakers won't scratch the surface they're on. A classy touch.</i><br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 9: What you get in the box.</i><br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 10: About the only glitch I ran into was that the speaker wire wasn't pre-split, so I was unable to reach the connection points. After I used a pocket knife to split the cable it worked out fine - Audioengine tells me this is fixed in the speakers currently shipping.</i><br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 11: A front view of the right-channel speaker powered up (blue light = working).</i><br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 12: This picture serves no purpose except that I thought it was pretty cool. My white Zune never sounded so good!</i><br /><br /><img src="" /> <br /><i>Figure 13: The delicious acoustic guitar of Eric Clapton Unplugged sounded amazing.</i><br /><PAGEBREAK><br /><span><b>So How Do They Sound?</b></span><br />One of the ways I judge speakers is if they can pick up extremely subtle sounds in the recording: there's a song by Jars of Clay called Wicker Baskets on a Taylor Guitars CD called <a href="">Sounds of Wood &amp; Steel 2</a>. The song has lush acoustic guitars, but it was also recorded in such a way that all of the natural sounds of playing acoustic guitar are there: the sound of fingers moving to different positions, the sound of the pick (or fingernails) hitting the strings and pulling off again. The A5's excelled at delivering all of the details in this song, which isn't easy to do. Other songs sounded equally good: the dulcet tones of Michael Bublé singing "You Look Wonderful Tonight" were as smooth as clear as they should be, and the upright bass filled out the bottom end. Vocals absolutely shine trough the A5's: the a capella intro of Tim McGraw's "Last Dollar (Fly Away)" was so realistic it was eerie. I'm a big fan of college a capella music, and I've never heard it sound better than through the A5's. Delicious. And it goes without saying that classical music, based primarily on mid and high tones, sounds glorious.<br /><br />When it comes to any music that relies on a thick bass line or kick drums, the A5's don't quite deliver - but this really depends on what you prefer as a music listener. Here's what I mean by this: some people feel that bass should be <i>heard</i>, and some feel it should be <i>felt</i>. When you listen to a rock song using the A5's, you'll hear the bass - it will come through clearly. You will not, however, <i>feel</i> it the same way you can feel the vibrations of a dedicated sub-woofer. I did some direct comparisons between my THX-certified Logitech 5.1 speakers and the Audioengine A5's, playing the same song on each set of speakers. I bounced back and forth, listening to the same part of the same song one right after the other. The A5's sounded crisper and clearer, but the Logitech speakers with the sub-woofer delivered more bottom end that I could hear <i>and</i> feel. I think the ultimate combination would be to attach a sub-woofer to the A5's, but unfortunately I didn't have access to one for testing. It would be nice for Audioengine to offer a bundle of the A5's with a sub-woofer.<br /><br />A word about volume: the Audioengine A5's can go incredibly loud - louder than any other pair of speakers that I own. Using the Zune as an audio source, I cranked it up as high as it would go, then cranked up the A5's - that lasted about five seconds, because it was so loud it was painful. Volume sufficient to loudly fill a medium-sized room can be achieved with the A5's on 50% max volume and my Zune on 15 of 20 volume bars. The A5's have a lot of power and lack nothing in the volume department.<br /><br /><span><b>All in All....</b></span><br />The Audioengine A5 speakers are an impressive set of speakers, but how much you'll love them depends heavily on what kind of music you listen to. If you're into drum and bass techno, you're going to miss the sub-woofer: you'll hear the bass, but you won't feel it. It's worth pointing out that these speakers are so good you'll still hear your music in a whole new way, regardless of what genre you listen to.<br /><br /><i>Jason Dunn owns and operates <a href="">Thoughts Media Inc.</a>, a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys mobile devices, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. Bring the bass!</i>
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